It takes some doing to lose a limited over game when you have the opposition at 37 for 2 after 20 overs, and that after the expensive gamble with Steve Howard's rusty leg-spin that doubled the score in a two over spell. Steve did create the first of the SIX chances Mark Mellor gave on the way to his well deserved 100 not out, but unfortunately James Booth's drop at long off set the tone for the remainder of the innings. Strongroom must have been thanking their lucky stars for being handed such a get-out-of-jail card. The seamers, Khans Waseem and Naem, Paul Shorrock and Stuart Lindsay had held the Strongroom batting in a vice like grip with the backing of some solid ground fielding. After a drinks break gave a chance for The Strongroom to realise their position Mark Mellor in particular began to play his shots and the more the Exiles put down easy chances the bolder he got. Even relatively safe hands like Waseem and Faisal joined in the butter-fingered bunch. Rumours that a sponsorship by Lurpak is on the cards cannot be confirmed at this stage.
The Strongroom line-up had been augmented by all rounders Jon and David Gower (honestly!) two brothers who had approached The Exiles via this website, but too late after The Exiles had signed up several new guys during the close season for Captain Waseem to offer them a trial. The only positive aspect being the scorebook entry "David Gower-lbw-P Shorrock-2". The rest of the Strongroom innings was a blur of Mellor big hits, miss hits and Exiles' dropped catches, with a soundtrack of the Captain's exhortations to keep our heads up and chief cheerleader "big" Steve Little's shouts of "keep it tight!". Well, I for one felt a puckering. There was also the usual controversy when a Strongroom batsmen needed a runner but then forgot that he was supposed to stay in his ground whilst the ball was in play. Naem ran him out by yards but he was reinstated when he appealed due to ignorance of the law regarding runners. Mellor went to the landmark off the last ball of the innings, scoring exactly 100 from a total of 151. The next best individual score was 11. If he'd been held early we should have been able to wrap up the remainder for around 60 runs, but if any one of the chances had been held the margin for victory would have been bridged, so no one should feel any less guilty than poor James.
The Strongroom opening bowlers took a while to settle and the Exiles openers gave them every chance to by neglecting to punish a series of long-hops from Woolhouse and some ordinary stuff from David Gower. When Woolhouse eventualy tuned his radar his first good length ball evaded James forward prod, leaving him still owing about 90 runs on his account. Steve Dupreez went softly, a very optimistic lbw appeal was turned down (he was 6 feet down the wicket, it looked to pitch outside leg and didn't look to be hitting) and Steve held the position, so the keeper sneaked in and whipped his bails off for a run-out when no run was attempted. Steve went and sat on his own for a while, nobody approached him, sensibly. Martin was the surprise number 3 (to him as much as anyone else) and whilst he hung about and got to double figures by the time he was dismissed the score was on 37 for 3 and the 20th over was up( hmmm, sounds familiar). By then Mark Mellor had his breath back and bowled a tight spell of fast-arm seam. Faisal Ansari at least is in a solid batting groove, and Exiles began to feel some relief when he lofted Gower over the long on boundary for conscutive sixes. Naem supported him carefully with five squeezed singles until he wafted a legside full toss straight to fine leg. Steve Little had a good chance to swing his bat, and even managed a defensive shot or two. He reached double figures, which gave him enough leverage to pile more pain on his flat mate Steve Dupreez's day. When Faisal fell for a valuable 42 the Exiles still had a way to go. Roric Coleman still on nought drove a ball straight at mid off who held the catch safely. Waseem batting at number 8 prodded and nurdled as the rate climbed towards six an over but Stuart Lindsay at the other end raised the tempo with some crashing drives, belying his modesty about his batting ability. The situation forced him to chance his luck too far though and he fell to yet another catch at deepish mid-off. It was the first ball of the last over when Paul Shorrock at the non striker's end imagined for a second that Waseem had manged to get the ball off the cut strip but unfortunately he only managed to stun it into the bowlers right hand in his follow through who turned neatly and ran the hapless Exile out by a mile as his Captain looked on from the safety of his crease. With 16 runs needed desperate measures were called for, Waseem slogged for single and next ball Steve Howard lofted an easy catch for Mark Mellor running round from Mid On to pouch the ball and any Man of the Match awards had there been such a thing.
A terribly dissapointing game for The Exiles, at least ten chances to win the game squandered, with the bat as well as the hands. There will have to be a great improvement if we are to cause the Occasionals anything other than mirth next Sunday.
I apologise for the lack of a scorecard this week; multiple requests have failed to elicit the necessary from Captain Waseem, and likewise the lack of details from The Heavy Rollers game. If I have any figures wrong please accept my apologies.